Tom Clyde: Summer critter round-up
June 26, 2015
This is a very strange year. The snow-less winter and mid-summer temperatures in March were apparently just the beginning. This summer, things are different, odd. The population of potgut squirrels has exploded. They are sort of cyclical, building up a huge population before some virus thins the herd. They as thick as the projected density of Park City in 2060. They carry all kinds of things, including bubonic plague under some conditions. Cute little critters.
On the ranch there have always been certain fields where they are thick, and other places where you never see one. They don’t like wet areas for obvious reasons. But there are other fields where I have seldom seen one. This year they are colonizing new territory. I’ve got them in my yard for the first time I can remember. The dogs ought to keep them away from the house, but they are here now.
I watched one devouring dandelion leaves at a frenetic pace yesterday. It was just racing from plant to plant. True to its name, its belly was huge. They normally hibernate by mid-August. This one looked like he was about to crawl into his burrow and get high-centered next week. They all look pretty plump for this time of year. I’m not sure whether that means they will hibernate in July, or explode like the man in the Monty Python restaurant sketch. But they are way ahead of schedule. Me, too. The hay is ready to cut three weeks early.
The osprey have been thick as flies this year. They have always been around, but it was unusual to spot one. Not this year. They are cruising up and down the river all the time. Fishing ought to be easy with the water as low as it is. So while the osprey are plentiful, the red tail hawks are absent. With all the potguts to feed on, the red tails ought to be everywhere. I don’t think I’ve seen or heard one all summer. That’s very odd.
The big birds are impressive, but when it comes to sheer tenacity, it’s hard to beat a robin. A pair of robins has been trying to build a nest in the underside structure of a second floor deck on my house. There are places that wouldn’t be a problem. They have carefully selected the exact spot where they will poop all over the porch swing where I do my best thinking. So they would get the mud foundation for a nest built, and I’d knock it down with a ski pole that was still sitting on the front porch next to the snow shovel. They would rebuild, and I’d knock it down. Move ten feet south and we can get along fine. There was no compromise.
I was not about to be defeated by a robin. I searched online, and learned that they can only nest on a relatively flat base. If the surface is round, they can’t engineer the nest foundation. So I used an attractive combination of zip ties and duct tape to put pieces of plastic pipe on top of the beam they were building. It worked.
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One of the robins would fly up with a mouth full of nest mud, and sort of examine the site before landing on the ground below. It then cocked its head in a very thoughtful pose and stared at the spot. It flew up for a second look. The other robin came and did the same thing, stalling out in the air and then landing on ground. They talked it over, and moved on. "I told you that was a bad place, but you never listen to my opinion." They haven’t been back. But to get revenge, they have built in a tree outside the bedroom window, and start making noise with the first glimmer of light. Not all victories are decisive.
In other news, Walmart, Sears, Target, and even Spencer Gifts (your source for plastic dog poop) have decided to stop carrying merchandise with the Confederate Flag on it. Somehow people have gotten the idea that the banner of an armed insurrection against the United States, which led to a brutal war where the Confederates fought valiantly to defend the utterly indefensible, is a symbol of hate, racism, and violence. Or as they say in the South, "southern pride and heritage." The murders in Charleston seem to have retired this symbol to its rightful place on the shelf next to the swastika. And it only took 150 years.
I was in Charleston a year ago. It’s a beautiful city where all the public monuments would suggest that the Confederacy won. Taking down the flag of insurrection is a start. But do we really need Robert E. Lee statues on every corner?
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.